US Must Realise that India Can be a Friend, Only as an Equal and Not as a Follower
Agonised apologists for America are in angst over the angry objurgation against American arrogance over L’affaire Devyani Khobragade. Ever since the Indian government showed some spine by retaliating against the US government, America’s Indian megaphones are rising in fortissimo to counter the orchestra of domestic disgust. For them, money is more important than national pride. The class that adores the colour of the greenback over respect for the Tricolour are asking fustian questions like “Is Devyani more important than the Indo-US relationship?” In their lucre-driven bombilations, they have chosen to forget that Devyani, a Dalit diplomat, was representing her country and was not just some individual the Indian government had dispatched to the US. Forget amor patriae, an obstreperous campaign is on to undermine her reputation and underplay the colossal insult to the prestige of Indian state by a petty American official. As Devyani returned home in disguised disgrace, the government hit back by asking a US diplomat to be recalled. He was the one instrumental in getting Devyani’s maid Sangeeta Richard’s family ‘evacuated’ from their own country—India.
While Devyani was declared persona non grata, US authorities remained silent about the behaviour of her nanny and her family members who entered the US to avoid facing Indian courts. The inexplicably imperious US posturing on Devyani hides more than what it reveals. Otherwise both countries wouldn’t have adopted an eyeball-to-eyeball stance. It is perhaps for the first time that both India and the US have expelled diplomats in concert. Such an exceptional row comes at a stage when they were perceived as allies in global economic and strategic issues. For the past two decades, India has been bending backwards to mend its ways and means to suit American corporate and strategic interests. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the only Head of State who has made the maximum number of trips during his two terms to the US than any of his peers. American diplomats in India were given exceptional waivers to open schools, clubs, import luxury goods and even employ Indians without following Indian laws. The American Embassy in New Delhi was shown the magnanimity of blocking the road behind it in the name of security, while the Indian Embassy in Washington was even denied two parking spots. American diplomats have been enjoying special facilities at various airports in India, unlike Indian diplomats in the US. American Embassy staff were given passes to enter official areas where even senior civil servants, ministers and chief ministers could not tread. The Indian Prime Minister and Union ministers have been liberal in granting visiting US junior diplomats an audience. But for our ministers, getting an appointment with even a Secretary in the US government, let alone President Obama, would be unthinkable. The UPA has been so eager to oblige America that it even risked a fall by getting the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement passed, facing charges of political misconduct.
If that wasn’t enough, the Indian government went out of its way to save American companies from sinking during the economic recession by placing huge orders on capital equipment. America has been treating India as a bespoke colony, expecting Indians to surrender their self-respect. Since India opened up its economy to become a global player, it has been granting American companies preference over multinationals from other countries. During the past 10 years, India has placed orders worth `50,000 crore with US corporations for defence equipment and aircraft. India is America’s largest but unreciprocated trade partner. It has invested over $60 billion in US treasury bonds, thereby becoming America’s 17th largest investor. Even on international issues, the UPA would invite the ire of its domestic constituencies by supporting US policy on Sri Lanka and Iran. Indian corporate Caesars have been liberal in funding American academia with millions of dollars, which they rarely do for Indian institutions. In America they perceive a natural ally who would fight against terror, dictatorships and communist expansionism for mutual benefit. Indians of American-origin contribute bounteously to parties during the US elections.
The Devyani episode has proved that America preaches democracy and peace but practices dictatorship and exclusivity. Anyone who questions their arbitrariness and arrogance would be treated as an enemy. Even after extracting maximum economic flesh from India, no American company or the US government has shown even a minor interest in protecting India’s dignity and security. In reality, they have been supporting the anti-India forces in our neighbourhood, closing their eyes against terror camps in Pakistan and imposing strict conditions on the immigration of Indian skilled labour to the US. They are tight-fisted while investing in India. According to official records, the cumulative FDI equity inflow into India was just $2 million until September 2013. About 20 per cent of it went to the services sector. Americans have refused to transfer technology and invest in immovable assets but are insisting on extremely liberal tax policies for their FIIs so that they could fatten their coffers by playing the markets.
Yet India has been magnanimous towards America. But the way they treated Devyani proves beyond any doubt that US policymakers are uncomfortable with India’s rise as an economic and military super power, which could challenge their supremacy one day. They have perhaps forgotten former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who always showed them their place, whether it was over China or Pakistan. The US may have infiltrated the Indian establishment but it has wounded the heart of India. For Indians, protecting the prestige of the Tricolour is a matter of faith, which cannot be compromised by showering a bounty of dollars on a chosen few. The time has come for America to realise that India can be a friend, only as an equal and not as a follower.
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla